Career Day: Writer

Tell us a little about yourself and about your job.

I’m a St. George, Utah girl who somehow ended up living in Switzerland. My husband got a job offer in Switzerland the same week as the company I was working for was taken over, so we saw that as a sign that we should definitely go to Switzerland. Rather than going back to the corporate world, I took up freelance writing. I’ve been freelancing for pay (critical distinction!) for 5 years. I currently write for Inc.com and several other smaller publications. In the past I’ve written for CBS News, Readers Digest, and US News. You can find my full archives at my blog, www.evilhrlady.org.

We have two adorable children, a girl 11 and a boy 6. They both speak fluent German now. Me? Ha! I took Hebrew in college because it was “fun.” Note to anyone reading this: take German in college as it will make our life easier when you move to Switzerland, which you should.

What does your job entail?

I write about anything related to careers. A good bulk of my writing involves answering questions about careers, job interviews, policies, and explaining employment law. That’s what people see on the outside. Behind the scenes, I have to find new clients, negotiate salaries and contracts and work the heck out of social media. I interview a bunch of people and am always looking for people who have interesting careers or businesses.

Why did you want to become a writer?

I come from a long line of writers. My paternal grandfather wrote numerous books, my maternal grandmother wrote books. My sister is an award winning novelist. And me? I grew up loving Dear Abby. I wanted to be an advice columnist, but I figured it was an impossibility. But, with the advent of blogs, I was like, “Hey, I can write and help people!” So, I started my blog and that was the start. I love words. I love to write. I love to help other people. I do have a bit of a talent for explaining complex things in clear language, so I’ve been able to help people figure out that minefield that is their career.

What kind of education/training is required?

Writing isn’t like becoming a doctor. There’s no certification process and it’s really a meritocracy. If you’re good, you can succeed, if you aren’t, well, you’re doomed. If you want to be a writer, write, write, write and write. Also, read. You don’t have to be a grammar perfectionist (note the sentence fragment before this sentence), but you do need to know and understand grammar. When you know and understand grammar, you’ll be able to make conscious decisions when to follow the rules and when not to. Some business skills are needed so that you can negotiate contracts.

The biggest thing about writing is being an expert in your field. You can have lots of great language skills, but if you don’t know what you’re talking about, you’re sunk.

What kind of job opportunities are there in your field?

Every business has a blog these days and they all need writers. Unfortunately, many of them want you to write for “exposure.” I say to them, “If I wasn’t already exposed, you wouldn’t have found me.” Delete. You do have to do some work for free to build your portfolio, but I recommend doing that on your own blog, rather than on others. Why let them have the credit for your awesomeness?

What types of jobs have you had within your profession?

Well, I write about careers, because I was an HR person. I hired, fired, managed the numbers and double checked with the lawyers. Mostly, though I was behind the scenes in policy and analysis roles. These years in the corporate world gave me the background necessary to do my job right now.

What is the best part of your job?

The people! I get to answer questions and make a real difference in people’s lives.

What is the worst part of your job?

The contract negotiations and the money. No one gets rich freelance writing.

What’s the work/family/life balance like?

Because I’m a freelancer, I’m self-employed. I set my own hours and I limit my contracts so that I have time for my family. I have two children and they are both in school, so I can do my work in the day when they aren’t home. I take the month of July off so we can travel and do swimming lessons and such. Of course, I don’t get paid for that time, but I do have it.

What is the biggest misconception people have about your job?

That anyone can do it! You do have to work hard and you do have to write well. Just because the web lets everyone hit “publish” doesn’t mean it should.

What opportunities have you had because of your education and profession?

I’ve had great opportunities. I’m on the radio a lot, which I still find super cool. I’ve met amazing people. I’ve been able to purchase magazines with my articles inside. Awesome.

What stereotypes or criticisms have you faced as an educated Mormon woman with her own career?

Fortunately, I haven’t encountered a lot. I’m pretty outspoken and I think rude people just kind of know they aren’t going to win with me. Heck, my blog is named Evil HR Lady (because when have you liked your HR department?). No one ever touched my stomach while I was pregnant either, so I guess I give a “be nice or go away” vibe. Maybe I should teach seminars in that. I do have some relatives who are convinced I’m headed straight to hell, but well, bless their hearts.

What spiritual guidance have you felt as you have pursued your education and developed your career?

I am the world’s wimpiest wimp. I don’t like to do anything new without someone standing by me to hold my hand. I don’t even like going to new stores by myself. (See, wimpy!) But, there have been moments in my life when I’ve done really scary things without any fear, like when I graduated from BYU and moved, by myself, to Long Island to attend graduate school. I didn’t know a soul on Long Island, but I had no fear. This is definitely the hand of the Lord. With my freelancing career, jobs just fell out of the sky at first (not so much anymore), which made it obvious to me that this is the path the Lord has in mind for me.

The reality is, I’ve been given talents, and I think it’s my obligation to use these talents. So, I do.

Any other thoughts, advice, or stories you’d like to share with other women?

It’s totally true that your family is the most important thing in your life, but what that means varies from woman to woman because our talents vary. I have a great friend who is a master gardener and decorator. Seriously, her home should be on the cover of a magazine (and, in fact has been). She probably spends more time on her house and gardens than I do on my writing (I try to keep it about 20 hours a week), but no one would ever question her commitment to her family, because it’s all about the home. I live an apartment, so I couldn’t spend 20 hours on my two planter boxes even if I wanted to. Different situations, different talents, different family needs.

3 Comments on “Career Day: Writer

  1. Pingback: Aspiring Mormon Women: An interview with me! | Payroll Services

  2. I’m binge reading AMW today and I loved your post! Especially the last paragraph.

  3. Hi there AMW. it is a truly good career to be a writer. you even become more successful once you indulge into blogging because this is where you get to easily reach many people that need and appreciate your work. I think it has something to do with inheritance when you find yourself taking after your relatives because my story and yours are very similar. almost all members of my extended family are writers!!

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